Just did this long, long, long interview for Sky Magazine (no, I've never heard of it either) - if there's anything else you really want to know about me please feel free to make it up.
Name: Josephine Caulfield
Age: 21 (and has been for some time)
Where were you born? I was born in St Asaph, N.Wales to Irish parents, my Dad is from Belfast and my Mum is also from Armagh.
I was brought up mainly around the East Midlands; Derbyshire, Nottingham and Rutland. My Dad was in the Forces so we moved around a lot; we also lived in Wiltshire, Norfolk (twice) and London. When people ask me where are you from I never know quite what to say.
Where and who do you live with now?
I live in London with my husband but there could be a change soon. I mean changing where we live, not changing my husband.
Did you dream of being a stand up comic? Or was it something you realised you were good at later in life? I had loved Dave Allen as a kid, I must have been a strange little girl, I totally indentified with this man sitting on a high stool telling stories and drinking whisky. I thought I’d like to do ‘something funny’ but there was no such thing as a career in Stand-Up comedy, I didn’t even think about actually doing it. I'd only been to a comedy club once before I did my first open spot.
Were you a funny child? I used to do impressions for my Mum of all her friends. So I was either a funny child or a highly obnoxious child.
What inspired you to become a comic? When I realised that you could just go along to a comedy club and just ask to do 5 minutes, there were no exams or qualifications needed. I couldn’t believe how accessible the entry into comedy was.
It seemed to be a meritocracy, if I made people laugh then the promoters would book me. Simple.
bviously I was an idiot and hadn’t thought through the reality. I spent several years driving up and down the country doing 5 minutes, getting yelled at by the audience and NOT getting paid.
Was it hard for friends and family to accept, especially being a woman? Most people close to me just thought, “Oh is that what she’s doing this week”.
I had drifted in and out of different jobs since I was 17. I’d been a waitress, a restaurant manager, a chambermaid, worked in a cocktail bar, several pubs, I’d had a stall at the, since demolished, Kensington Market, I was a drummer in a Rockabilly band, I opened a vintage clothes shop and I made and sold reproductions of 50’s clothes at Rock ‘n’ Roll weekenders. Comedy seemed relatively sensible in comparison.
Did you have any icons who inspired you, male or female? Growing up it was Dave Allen, Billy Connolly, and Les Dawson. Then I stared to listen to comedy records and watch videos. Derek and Clive, Joan Rivers, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin these were not the traditional comedians that were on TV – these seemed like real people, just talking and swearing. That’s the first time I started thinking –“Well I can do talking and swearing”. Then I saw Eddie Izzard doing a show, I think he’d just done very well in Edinburgh, my friend was really keen to see him but I’d never heard of him. I was blown away – it was like he was your mate just talking to you. I’d never experienced anything where there was absolutely no fourth wall. I think that’s when I really fell in love with Stand-Up.
I was also a huge fan of French and Saunders and Victoria Wood. My friends and I knew their sketches off by heart, French and Saunders doing the two teenage schoolgirls on the bus, hilarious! There are lines that are in my head, and still make me laugh; Julie Walters is dancing round this totally uninterested man and says “42 and no bra, not bad eh?”
What was it like trying to make it as a stand-up?
You have to get on stage as much as you can. I would regularly do things like drive all the way from London to Sheffield to do 5 minutes.
I found comics very encouraging and helpful; being female probably went in my favour as I wasn’t seen as a direct threat. I wasn’t another middle class white man entering a profession already packed with middle class white men.
What does it take to make it as a woman in the industry or indeed to become a successful stand-up at all? Just work on being as funny and original as you can. You can’t think about the female thing- I’m a woman that’s not going to change. I do try not to dress too provocatively, it distracts from the comedy. But that’s the same if you’re a business woman; if you want to be judged on what you say, don’t get your tits out.
I only do that with close friends after too much wine. So, quite often.
You also have to like the lifestyle, some people don’t like travelling and staying in hotels. I love hotels, someone cleans up after you – what’s not to like! I also have a very supportive husband, well he’s supportive, or he actually likes me going away all the time..............I’m never quite sure.
You’ve written for other people’s shows, what are they? I wrote on 7 series for Graham Norton.
Do you ever feel jealous for the credit that they get when they are your jokes? No because they still have to have the skill to tell it well. Just because you give someone a funny joke doesn’t mean it will end up being being funny when they say it................mentioning no names, Anne Robinson
Edinburgh Fringe- You’re a regular now, do you still love it? I love the city, it’s so beautiful, walking along the Royal Mile at night is like being drunk in Fairyland.
The atmosphere at the Festival is amazing, you have the weirdest nights meeting strangers from all over the world, and they all love comedy and alcohol of perfect.
At the moment I’m working out my new show for this year, “Cruel To Be Kind”, having to come up with a new hour every year keeps me excited and creative. I’m at the point now with this show that I’m really looking forward to doing it.
You are always trying to get better. To me there’s no point where you say: That’s it, I’m now the best comedian I can be. It’s like being a musician, you're constantly trying new things, not just in terms of material but in the way you perform. I do a lot more acting out and voices now than I used. I also like mixing up styles, doing stories and rants with one-liners. Like, I have a story about my Granny but I also put in a silly one liner...
“I took my Grandmother along to the Antiques Road Show when it came to her town. They said she’s very old - but not worth anything.”
Is it better to have a live audience with who you can see responses? This may sound a bit grandiose but you get amazing moments in live comedy. Moments where it’s all about the people there, in that room, on that night. I love seeing people nudging their friends and partners in recognition over something I’ve said. It’s a little chink of warmth and humanity in a world of packaged, cynical entertainment. Yeah, I was right that did sound grandiose!
Do you ever still get nervous? Is it different when you have new material? I always get an adrenalin rush going on stage. The best and worst thing about Stand-Up is that it is never the same; you can’t take it for granted. Certain nights things can just take off and you can write a whole new bit right on stage. That’s an amazing feeling.
New material is jumping into the unknown, there’s no other way of finding out whether it’s funny than saying it in front of an audience. You just have to jump. Sometimes you land in shite. There’s just a roomful of people staring at you saying “No Jo, we’ve never thought that”.
Or sometimes I rant on about a talentless celebrity only to find that no one else finds Amanda Holden as annoying as I do. Come on people? She is, isn’t she?
Although I got a good reaction the other night to this new bit:
“I saw a picture of Jordan in Heat magazine, she looked good. She’d obviously had a bit of work done. She’d had her paws clipped and her tail docked.”
Speaking of live audiences, you have your own radio show on Radio4, what was that like and how did it come about? Caroline Raphael who commissions comedy at Radio 4 came to my show at the Edinburgh Festival. I didn’t know what she looked like or even that she had come to see me.
There was a woman sitting in the front row and I had a bit of banter with her, I believe I called her a slut or worse. Then I asked what she did for a living and she said “I’m the commissioning editor for Radio 4”- cue huge laugh from the audience! So that’s how you get a radio show kids – insult the commissioning editor.
You met your husband at a comedy club? Was he bowled over by your sense of humour? I doubt it as he saw me on about my 5th gig and I was rubbish, we actually bonded over music. I also loved his accent; I have a thing about wiry, argumentative Scotsmen. My husband never talks behind people’s backs, no, he tells everyone to their face
You’ve written, done stand-up and acted. What do you prefer? I would love to do more acting. It’s nice to not have to write all the words yourself; and it’s fun to work with other people. I also like that people do your make up and bring you tea. They say things like “Jo, if you don’t mind we’re ready for you now”. If I don’t mind! You’re employing me; of course I don’t mind doing the thing that you have paid me to do.
Over the last couple of years I have started writing sitcoms scripts. Learning the structure was a real challenge at first. There’s so much more involved than writing stand-up, I would write a really funny scene and then realise that it was half an hour long. Now, I feel I’ve cracked how to do story lines and I’m enjoying the process – I’m no longer thinking, “How am I going to get these people to shut up and get into another scene”.
But stand-up is so wonderfully self-contained. It’s my own little business, just me and my car and I can work. I hope to be doing it for ever; I see no reason to stop. George Carlin got better and better with age.
You were recently on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, what was that like? Did you speak much? Do you like his humour? The first time I worked with Michael in a comedy club I thought “Where’s he come from?” Most new comics you’ll see struggling for a few years and then getting gradually better. Michael started as a fully formed comic. He was really good immediately. I liked his stuff because we are quite similar in some of our subject matter; we’re both observational with a twist. We both deal with the frustrations of everyday life.
He’s also good company and funny in real life. I also like that wobbly head thing he does – makes me laugh every time.
I think the Comedy Roadshow has done a lot for Stand-Up Comedy in Britain. Michael brought comedy to a new audience. He made it mainstream in a good way; he’s doing inventive, smart comedy that has mass appeal. The show also introduced comedians like me to this new audience.
You’ve worked a lot with Graham Norton too, what was that like? Graham Norton was brilliant to write for. I couldn’t believe I got paid to laugh all day, I think the only time we really concentrated was when were deciding what to order for lunch.
He also gave me my first break, we’d met on the comedy circuit and when he got his Channel 4 show he got me in to do the studio warm-up. They had trouble finding writers that suited Graham, I’d never written for anyone other than myself but they gave me a trial run as a writer. It just clicked and I wrote jokes for him for the next 7 years!
Quite a few comedians say that they aren’t funny in real life, in fact quite the opposite. What would you say you are like? I like making people laugh whether I’m on stage or not. I was like that in whatever job I had, I think most people are. How are you going to get through the next shift; by having a laugh.
What would you have done if you hadn’t made it? I’ve absolutely no idea; I’ve always had a job so I would be doing something. I might have moved to America, I thought about it before I did comedy, living in a clapper- board house on the beach, maybe solving crime.............I think that’s actually the TV show Harry O; yeah, I would have liked that.
Are there any comedians you love to watch? Chris Rock, Todd Barry, Louis CK, Dylan Moran, Ed Byrne, Wanda Sykes.
There’s lots of British comics that I like too but it’s hard to pick out people for a special mention, without pissing off a load of other people. I think we have some extremely funny and exciting comics on our circuit. And most people have a good attitude; they are passionate about it and work hard. I was on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow with Jon Richardson, Mickey Flannagan and Lloyd Langford, that’s a great bill, they’re a good example of what I like, they’re all smart, funny and original. If they come to a town near you – go and see them.
Just realised I haven’t mentioned any women as I'm often the only woman on the bill. I saw Rosie Wilby the other night she was great. Also Kitty Flanagan and Marian Pashley always crack me up. Marian’s from Hull, that accent with really funny lines is a great combination.
Do you watch comedy on TV or something else? I am a sucker for reality shows, The Real Housewives of Orange County, The Real Housewives of New York, Coach Trip, Holiday Showdown; that’s what I’ll watch to wind down after a gig. I also like The IT Crowd and The American Office.
I am still in withdrawal from Mad Men. Such great television. When will Britain make TV like that?
ENDS Thank you!